In theory, summer days are supposed to be spent basking in the sun (with SPF, obviously), taking a nap, having a barbecue, and hitting the beach—not itching, sweating, and itching some more. But the latter is probably your reality if you experience severe eczema symptoms in the summertime.
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is an umbrella term used to describe a group of chronic skin disorders that cause recurring itchy rashes that affect people of all ages, skin types, genders, and ethnicities, Monique Chheda, MD, board-certified dermatologist at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, tells SELF. And it’s quite common: Approximately 31 million people in the U.S. have eczema, according to the National Eczema Association.
For some people, the increased moisture in the air and sunlight that come with warmer weather can bring relief to eczema symptoms, as opposed to the biting winter air that tends to dry out the skin and trigger flare-ups. But for other people, too much sun, heat, humidity, and sweat, as well as seasonal allergens like pollen, can aggravate eczema, Dr. Chheda says. Say hello to itching, burning, and pain—not exactly the hallmarks of a relaxing summer vacation.
So, what can you do to cut back on flare-ups when the heat hits? You’ll need tons of sunscreen, for one. Then, consider the tips below to keep your eczema symptoms under control this summer.
Wash your face with a gentle cleanser each day.
First, make sure your cleanser is gentle enough for your sensitive skin, but effective enough to wash away any sweat the heat and humidity may cause, Carla T. Lee, MD, PhD, assistant professor of dermatology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, tells SELF. You don’t have to spend tons of money on a cleanser—a drugstore option will do for your morning and night cleanse.
The National Eczema Association recommends a cleanser without fragrance and with a low pH, which better complements the skin’s natural pH. The best way to find something that meets these parameters? Look for “soap-free” and “pH-balanced” and/or the National Eczema Association seal on the packaging, or search the product directory on the association’s website.
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
A strong daily moisturizer is an eczema essential, regardless of the season. It can keep your skin barrier healthy and hydrated, Dr. Chheda says. In a body moisturizer, she recommends soothing, healing ingredients like ceramides and colloidal oatmeal.
For your face, Jami Miller, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, suggests opting for a light cream or lotion with an active ingredient like hyaluronic acid, a humectant that draws water in to hydrate the skin. Also, avoid skin-care products with fragrances, as they can possibly cause flare-ups for some people with eczema.
Turn to prescription topical steroids.
The top-line treatments to calm itching, inflammation, and redness are topical steroids, which come in different strength levels in the form of a cream, ointment, lotion, or spray. “In the summer, people don’t typically like to use a thick, greasy ointment, and we might change the particular formulation to a lighter cream,” Dr. Chheda says.